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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6384

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (11:12): I must share with the House that I have had similar problems with constituents in my electorate. It will be resolved in the future, and maybe I could meet with the member for Canning later and tell him what is happening in my area. I rise to support this legislation to improve the regulatory framework for digital television services, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2012. In particular, it will facilitate earlier access to services licensed under section 38C, known as VAST, for viewers in areas which will not be able to receive adequate digital reception after digital switch-over. It gives the minister greater flexibility in varying the dates of the switch-over determinations.

The Shortland electorate straddles two switch-over areas. The Hunter region switches over on 27 November 2012 and the Central Coast part of Shortland electorate, which is in the Sydney broadcasting area, will switch over in 2013. The legislation will allow for the management of the switch-over process by broadcasters and it will ensure the government's assistance schemes are delivered in a timely manner.

Shortland electorate has areas with significant digital signal problems. One area in particular is the suburbs of Belmont North and Jewells. They are very similar to areas that the member for Canning mentioned; they will not qualify for satellite and the subsidy that goes along with that. Also, many parts of the Central Coast area are affected, but the biggest problem on the Central Coast relates to the ABC. The signals are basically clashing and interfering with reception. That needs to be dealt with by the ABC. In relation to the problem in Belmont North and Jewells, there is going to be a new tower built that will circumvent some of the difficulties that are present in that area. If the member for Canning visits the website that shows where new towers are to be built, he will see if his area is missing out on one of the new towers. There has been lengthy community consultation, and I made sure that the residents in my area had all the information. It sounds like a very similar problem to the one that they were having. As a consequence of the intervention and presenting the information, Broadcast Australia has put in a proposal for a new transmission site, which will most likely use existing mobile phone towers. They put the technology onto that, and then that helps with the problem that is being experienced with reception.

The proposal has the new transmission site located on Violet Town Road at Belmont North, at the junction of Violet Town Road and the Pacific Highway. That will assist with the problem. The transmission will commence from that site about six weeks before the switchover. It will be completed in time for the switchover so that the people who would not have the ability to watch digital TV will have reception. The new transmission site should resolve all reception difficulties in the northern part of my electorate. I suggest that, if the member for Canning can link into a similar situation, then his problems will be resolved. I know there are a number of new transmission sites that are being constructed throughout the country. I am very pleased that the problem area I had at Belmont North and Jewells will be resolved. People who are experiencing problems should go to the mySwitch website and check how the improvements will affect them. Once again, if the member for Canning has a look at that site, he might find that it is going to help his constituents. The problems on the Central Coast are twofold. There are problems caused by topography, which is quite significant, and problems caused by signal clash of the ABC's single frequency network.

The legislation will allow commercial broadcasters to take a considered and managed approach to the massive task of switchover in metropolitan areas. Further work needs to be done on the Central Coast by commercial broadcasters to audit the reception problems and to plan solutions for the problems. That is something that I am going to be following very closely, because once the digital switchover takes place we need to ensure that people can receive television. It is not a very good situation if we have people who are not eligible for any sort of subsidy and cannot receive reception on their television sets. It can be resolved, as I have shown, and has been resolved at Belmont North and Jewells.

The big problem is in the ABC transmission and how the ABC intends to resolve the clash of their network. That is the biggest problem on the Central Coast. The other will be resolved but I think we need to resolve that issue with the ABC. I have made representation to the ABC about that. Some areas of my electorate are able to receive an ABC transmission from three sources: from Sydney, from Mount Sugarloaf and from the Central Coast. For many, many constituents this results in a signal clash and is very difficult for individual households to resolve. They turn their aerial one way and then the other, they raise their aerial and do many things but still do not resolve the problem. I would really encourage the ABC to resolve that issue on the Central Coast. It is very important to the constituents I represent in the parliament. But I am very, very pleased with the resolution found to the problems experienced by residents at Belmont Beach north of Jewells Beach in the northern part of my electorate. Those residents will be able to receive digital reception once the switchover takes place because of the action that the minister has facilitated through community consultation leading to Regional Broadcasting Australia putting in a proposal to upgrade the site and to ensure that digital television access is available.